nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

continuity errors

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As I do revisions of my new manuscript, I find continuity errors in the First Draft. A perfect example cropped up today.

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The story revolves around the clues contained in a shoe box of post cards. About a quarter of the way through the book, someone steals the post cards. In the next chapter, Kaye and her friend Clara make a list of the post cards and a summary of the clues. Hard to do if they don’t have the cards with them! This kind of continuity error is easy to find and correct. Switching the chapters and correcting any new continuity errors is relatively easy.

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post cards

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Fixing continuity errors begins with identification.

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My main tools in this process are the “find” feature of my word processing software and a “table of chapters” that tracks the characteristics of each chapter. The table includes chapter-specific information on scenes, days/dates, setting, characters, Point of View, symbols and so on. This table is a lot of work, but it helps me over and over again during the review process.

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Sample Table

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In my search for continuity errors, I consider:

1. days and dates: I begin every chapter and scene with a day and date. This helps the reader to understand passage of time and helps me with time-related continuity errors. For example, Katie is in Grade 10 at school. On Tuesdays, she can’t be driving around with her mom looking for clues. The table lets me check on these various characteristics of the story and the time/order when events occur.

2. symbols used in the story: mentioned once in a story, a firepit is just a firepit. Mentioned twice, it begins to resonate; it refers to earlier mentions and takes on metaphorical meaning. Mentioned three times, it is all metaphor, a reminder of family, warm memories of a cold night and gathering. When these symbols are identified in the table of chapters, I can forward search on each symbol and read the context. The progression of meaning should be steady and discernible. Ideas out of order can be identified and their order fixed.

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3. character development: sometimes continuity errors are about an out-of-order character arc. When Clara’s home suffers a break-in, she is fearful and unwilling to trust strangers. When she meets Daniel, she learns to trust again, but the progression of this change must be logical and gradual.

4. gradual changes to setting: sometimes significant changes to setting create continuity errors. For example, in my book, an old road is bulldozed. The first time it is used it is muddy, almost impassible. When cars use the road later in the story, I have to explain the change with a spell of dry weather.

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Continuity errors can creep into a story in so many small ways. Character names, hair colour, vehicle make and model, even community names … everything needs to be checked. In the revision stage, it is important to review the story with intent and focus: continuity errors are most easily identified when the writer’s brain is attentive, alert. Drowsy-minded reviews are for finding and removing adverbs!

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All this effort is needed. Readers can be ripped from the world created by a book if the heroine with curly red hair suddenly has hair that is wispy and blond. Readers can be unforgiving.

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'Odymn and Vicki talk' (2016_12_30 00_28_35 UTC) (2)

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Have you ever found an unforgettable continuity error in a book?

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All my best.

Stay home, stay safe.

Jane

heroine

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rose heroine

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heroine

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her hair

is a stroke of pink

on the brown audience

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more compelling

than the script

or the decorated stage

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not surprising to see

her name on the program

Rose

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in black but for the hair

even her lips

implore the audience

to pardon the difference

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she, the heroic one

not Romeo

or Juliet

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not the dead

but the left-behind

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All my best.

Staying safe,

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 12, 2020 at 7:00 am

choosing a title

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The title of a book can be chosen in a great hurry, the product of the first thing that writes itself on the back wall of the author’s brain. Or, it can emerge after hours, even days, of consideration.

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The title is an important part of a book. It is often the first impression a reader has of the story. It has the responsibility of telling the story in a few words without being a spoiler. It must inform and in the same moment ask a question. It can not confuse the reader … it must not promise a mystery by one author and deliver a book about the life cycle of bees by another.

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I am working on the third book in my Kaye Eliot Mystery Series. I first conceived of the book in 1989. The working title flashed before my eyes … No Stone Unturned. Over 30 years later, I have a first draft. Time to move from a working title to the final title.

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blue stone (Jane Tims) (2016_12_30 00_28_35 UTC)

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So, what is wrong with No Stone Unturned? First, it is a cliche. Second, I searched on Amazon books and found eleven other books with the same title.

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So, to come up with an alternative title, I considered the following:

  1. other titles in the series. Other titles in the Kaye Eliot Mysteries are How Her Garden Grew and Something the Sundial Said. These are longish titles and both ask a question. Both start with a pronoun and include a noun and a verb. To continue this pattern, I considered a title like Where the Stone Lies.
  2. what the story is about. This book is about various efforts to find a stone and return it to its home. Finding the Stone. Searching for the Stone. Setting the Stone Free. Hmmmm.
  3. words and ideas that repeat or resonate in the story. Words in this book with symbolic meaning include stone, stone house, standing stone, mill stone, furrow, land, repatriation, betrothal, demographics, house plans, etc. Some of these words can go out right away. Repatriation of the Stone. No.
  4. the book’s genre. I had a look at the book titles of other writers in the mystery genre. The word ‘mystery’ is usually on the cover … I have A Kaye Eliot Mystery on every cover. In this genre I see titles like Cold Earth and Dark Water (Anne Cleary), Candle for a Corpse and Flowers for His Funeral (Ann Granger), and Death in a Darkening Mist and A Killing in King’s Cove. (Iona Whishaw). So perhaps I should choose something like Seeking the Stone or Death by Stone or just The Stone House.

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Perhaps I am drowning in stones, because my choice for a book title at this point is The Land Between the Furrows. It is longish like my other titles. It is a little unfamiliar, to entice a reader. It asks the question “What happens on the land between the furrows,” or “What is the land between the furrows?” The worst thing about the title, it suggests an agricultural theme which is not quite true.

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img_1246

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If you are considering the ideal title for your own book, have a look at https://thejohnfox.com/2016/07/how-to-create-good-book-titles/ for a step by step approach to finding a great title.

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All my best.

Stay home as much as possible

and stay safe.

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 10, 2020 at 7:00 am

first draft

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This past weekend, I finished the first draft of the third novel in the Kaye Eliot Mystery Series. This is my favorite part of the long process of working on a book.

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I plan my novel to an extent. From the beginning, I knew the basic story: Kaye Eliot finds a packet of old postcards and is set on a search for a valuable stone. The idea for the story was sparked way back in 1989 when I first saw an abandoned stone house during field work in Nova Scotia. I also had most of my characters to work with: Kaye and her husband and two kids. And Daniel Cutter, a stonemason, a character introduced in Book Two of the series. To read Book Two (Something the Sundial Said), click here.

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As I write, I let the characters and story take me where they want to go. Sometimes this takes me in unusual directions. Unless an idea is ridiculous, I usually run with it.

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The props I encounter in the story have their own push and pull. The stone house, the postcards, a stone chimney, a set of architectural plans. When these objects are repeated in the story, they become symbols of ideas in the book.

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stone house Upper Canada Village

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The next stage in writing is the revision. This means reading the book, cover to cover, over and over. I will fix the misspellings and grammar, I add some description. I polish the dialogue. I adjust the story points. I fix the names of villages and bridges and social groups in the story. I do some research. Revision takes the bulk of the time devoted to writing the book, probably 80%. I do at least ten revision sweeps.

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I love the first revision. Although I wrote the first draft, reading it for the first time, cover to cover, is like discovering a new book.

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stone wall

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Next post, I will talk about choosing a title for the book, not as easy as it may seem.

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All my best.

Please stay safe.

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 8, 2020 at 7:00 am

Pareidolia

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pareidolia: the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern

(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

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When you look at marble, or at clouds in the sky, or bubbles in a glass of milk, do you see faces? Can you see The Man in the Moon? Pareidolia refers to the seeing of human faces or other images where they don’t exist. Pareidolia is a normal human tendency.

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I often see images in the marble patterns of our flooring. It can be quite entertaining. Mostly, I see animals. I think it is the biologist in me!

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Perhaps aliens also have pareidolia. In my upcoming book Meniscus: The Knife, I devote a chapter to this phenomenon. On planet Meniscus, there is a dirth of paper. One of my early characters, Ning, made paper from plant fibres for her girlfriend Kathryn, an artist. By Meniscus: The Knife, Book 8 in the series, (spoiler alert) only three sheets of Ning’s paper remain. Don-est, the alien child, wants to draw, so Kathryn shows her how to draw on the marble walls of the dwellings in the Village.

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Vicki sets her laundry

on the marble floor.

Tries to see

what Don’est is doing.

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As her eyes adjust

to smoky light,

she sees markings on the walls.

Drawings of bug-eyed evernells

and fuzzy elginards.

A slear-snake

with myriad eyes.

A cardoth moon,

slim sickle

of glowing white

in marble green.

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Don’est feels eyes on her.

Swivels her neck.

“What do you think

of my drawings?”

she says.

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“What are you doing?”

says Vicki.

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“I asked Kathryn for paper

but she has only a sheet or two

of the paper Ning made.

“So she showed me

an idea she had.

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“The marble walls,

you see,

have hidden secrets.

Lines and shadows

look like evernells

and Humans and slear-snakes

and grammid trees.”

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Vicki looks

at faint green lines on the walls.

Sees an old man in the pattern.

A thready waterfall.

A leaf-bare tree,

branches reaching for sky.

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“But what are you using to draw?”

she says.

Eyebrow pencil.

Kathryn and Ning

found it on a transport

long ago.”

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All my best,

staying at home,

drawing on the floors and walls,

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 5, 2020 at 7:00 am

spring flowers

with 5 comments

Our dominant ground greenery at this time of year is from the leaves of lily-of-the-valley (Convalleria majalis). Like emerald flames they light up the yard. And now they are in bloom. The fragrance is amazing!

All my best

and please stay safe at home.

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 3, 2020 at 9:59 am

with 2 comments

Written by jane tims

June 2, 2020 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

my COVID-19 kit

with 4 comments

Since March 12, I have been almost nowhere. I am so careful, washing my hands until I have developed a thin outer layer of skin. I have stood six feet apart, even when no one else is there. I wore a mask when I went into the only store I’ve been inside in two months. My husband does the same. We quarantine every bit of mail coming into the house. I wipe down all our groceries. The grocery bags go into quarantine as well.

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In spite of all these precautions, I worry. I am probably paranoid. The only thing that helps me be OK is my COVID-19 kit. Each morning and each night I pull it out. I take my temperature with my thermometer. 36.2 Whew! I lift my little bag of lavender to my nose. Sweet, potent, floral. Whew!

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A high temperature and loss of the sense of smell are not the only symptoms of COVID-19. Our New Brunswick Department of Health lists the following:

fever above 38°C or signs of fever (such as chills);

a new cough or worsening chronic cough;

sore throat;

runny nose;

headache;

a new onset of fatigue;

a new onset of muscle pain;

diarrhea;

loss of sense of taste or loss of sense of smell; and

in children, purple markings on the fingers or toes.

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Do you have a ritual that makes things seem OK? Even when they are not?

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All my best,

staying at home,

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 1, 2020 at 7:00 am

my place, my niche

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All of us, as we self-isolate and stay at home, have become more familiar with our own place or space. We also have become familiar with our ‘niche.’ It is also a sort of space, but is more about how we use that space.

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My space, on the macro-scale, is in the Northern Hemisphere and the temperate zone. I love the four seasons: perhaps summer, with it’s high humidity, least of the four. I live in a rural area; the bird chorus I hear each morning is associated with mixed hardwood and softwood. For more information on our ‘grey woods’ click here.

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Our house seemed big when we built it 40 years ago. Today it is considered modest with two floors, three bedrooms and a loft. As I grow older, arthritis means I hang out mostly on the main floor. But upstairs, the loft stores my genealogy interests and the library holds all my books. On the main floor is my computer, my bird watching corner, my sewing basket and my drawing and painting supplies. Often, my husband is there too. So you see, I have most of what it takes to make me happy.

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My space is more and more often in cyberspace. These days my family and friends are mostly there, on Facebook and Messenger. Just today I had my first meeting on Zoom.

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I spend about half of my day on the computer, in one phase or other of one of my writing projects. Last week our wifi went down for four days. Usually, I refer to the on-line dictionary or thesaurus about once every fifteen minutes. With the wifi down, I wondered for a moment what to do and then thought, “Thesaurus. Dictionary.” A little dusty but serviceable.

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So what is not part of my niche?

Music. I have a piano which I can play. And a guitar. And I have a stack of discs and a way to play them. I also have a small selection of my favourite music in my iPad. I tell myself it would be good to include more music in my life, in my ‘niche.’ So far it is only a thought.

Exercise. I will start by saying I do about 30 minutes of yoga-like stretches every morning. Otherwise I would not be able to get out of bed. If you follow my blog you know I am also dedicated to my stationary cycle but, since the first of the year, it aggravates my knees and I have not been doing this with any regularity. I have plans to reincorporate exercise into my niche, but so far, it is also a thought.

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Of course, the world is full of possibilities and I have many gaps in my space/niche. I have interests in coins, stamps, games, puzzles, calligraphy and so on. I have no interest in flying kites, cooking, speaking another language or clock-making. But perhaps, someday, one of these may insinuate itself into my niche. So much to include, so little time!

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So, what is in your space? Your niche? What is not in your space/niche?

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All my best,

staying at home, wearing my mask in public,

Jane

Written by jane tims

May 29, 2020 at 7:00 am

in these times

with 8 comments

Someday, my memory of these days of pandemic will have faded. But there is value in lessons learned, so I will describe my experiences here.

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My situation is that of a retired person, used to working on my writing at home and going out to do errands and some volunteer work. For my husband and I, staying home is not too different from normal life.

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lemons

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1. Food. Before the pandemic, we had already shifted to getting curb-side delivery of our groceries from the Atlantic Superstore. For that reason, no shift was needed. During this time, we make an order every two weeks, ordering early to get a convenient delivery time. My husband also goes to Sobeys once every two weeks for milk and a few needed items. Both stores have good distancing measures in place and the few substitutions any store has made have not been significant. As for take-out food, we have continued to order pizza and other take-out food as before.

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2. Passing Time in Isolation. I am so lucky that my husband and I have been able to face this time together. I have not really been isolated, since there is always someone there to talk to. We do small household projects together, read a bit together in a mystery series we both enjoy, watch some TV and plan our meals.

I am a writer and my writing life is managed by working on several projects at once, each project in a different stage. I have been very productive in the last two months, completing drafts of three new poetry books, completing work on the next book in my science fiction series, and launching two books, one science fiction and one mystery. I have seen a little spike in readership in the last few weeks, as people turn to reading to pass time alone.

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3. Contributing to Local Businesses. At the best of times, we are not big consumers. But during the pandemic, I have tried to support local businesses. I have bought plants for the growing season from Scotts, art supplies and toys from Endeavours and Think Play, fabric from Fabricville and so on. These businesses have gone above and beyond to give safe and friendly service. When parcels arrive, I put them in Quarantine for three days, to minimize any risk.

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4. Getting Out and About. During the pandemic, we have taken short drives, to bird watch, check on our cabin (about 3/4 of an hour away) and deliver sold books. In a stroke of luck, I had ordered author copies of my four newest books before Amazon cut delivery service to Canada, so I have books to sell. I do what I call ‘drive-by-bookings,’ making arrangements with those who want to buy my books, hanging a bag of books on the door handle and leaving to maintain social distancing. I have also put copies of my books in some of the little free libraries in town.

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5. Staying in Touch. I am so grateful to live in the age of the internet. I am able to keep in touch with family and friends by way of email, Facebook and my blog. My two writer’s groups have held their meetings on Facebook Messenger and I have taken a writing course twice a week on Facebook. I have family members not on social media and we have kept touch by way of telephone.

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6. Staying Healthy. Our days are very routine. We focus on getting lots of sleep, keeping our intake of fruit and vegetables high, keeping in touch with our physician and diabetic health care folk. As usual, I fall short on exercise. I have mobility problems and always do a half hour program of stretches each morning. Other than that, my success in the area of exercise is rather pitiful. I say I will do better.

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7. Adaption to new standards. We are lucky in New Brunswick where I live. We have had few cases, have no new cases (according to testing) and no deaths from COVID- 19. We are in the Yellow Phase of our re-opening plan which means most business can open with social-distancing and other measures in place.

Social distancing is hard. Not because I am a huggy sort of person, but because I find confronting people difficult. If someone is getting too close, I find it hard to confront, to say back off, even in a nice way. So when the delivery fellow comes to the door and tries to pass me a box, I take it, getting nearer than I should.

As our province tries to return to ‘normal’, I know mask-wearing will become part of our culture. So I dusted off my sewing machine and scanned the many videos showing mask-making. By the end of making ten washable masks, I could do them with my eyes shut, but my back hurt and I think I sewed through my finger at least once.

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The other day, as I went through some poems I have written, I came across one about getting the H1N1 vaccine. I have almost no memory of that time in my life. Of course, our lives were not affected in quite the same way. Perhaps I will look back on the time of COVID-19 and know some things changed for the better.

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All my best.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Stay home as much as possible.

Find a safe way to talk to and be with those you love.

Jane

Written by jane tims

May 25, 2020 at 7:00 am

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